Students honored during UNR American Indian/Alaska Native graduation |

Students honored during UNR American Indian/Alaska Native graduation

Cassandra Walker | First Nation's Focus
Keynote speaker Michon Eben reminded students of the story of the wolf and the coyote and how their people came to be, urging them to keep their teachings close to their hearts and top-of-mind as they pursue future endeavors.
Photo: Cassandra Walker
Learn More The American Indian Alaska/Native Graduation Celebration was hosted by University of Nevada, Reno’s Native American Student Organization in conjunction with the Native American Alumni Chapter and UNR Indigenous Student Services. Below is the list of Native graduates and undergrads honored at the May 10 ceremony: Graduate students: Sumayya Beekun Helen Fillmore Undergraduates: Dwight Garcia Alicia Reyes Kelman Choice Sierra Gotcher Cassandra McCarr Shandy Nanomantube Lindsey Grimes

RENO, Nev. — Plenty of mutual respect and admiration was displayed during the American Indian/Alaska Native Graduate Celebration on May 10 at the University of Nevada, Reno, as family and friends honored students for their years of scholastic achievement.

The Joe Crowley Student Union ballroom was filled with tribal community members, faculty and supporters who proudly watched as students crossed the stage into their next chapter of life.

At the graduation, family representatives presented each student with an academic stole to honor the important part the family plays in reaching graduation.

The new graduates also received their diplomas and gifts from alumni to symbolically send them into their next adventures.

Throughout the program, keynote speakers and university officials reiterated the importance of immersing younger children in the scholastic atmosphere to continue the legacy of American Indian/Alaska Native graduates.

Additionally, two future graduates — UNR royalty children — were included in the ceremony, when adorable youngsters Mary and Russell Melendez sang a song for the audience.

“Oh this is wonderful,” said their Grandma, Connie. “They’re our future. It’s important to have them here and give them a chance to experience graduation and inspire our future.”

Saundra Mitrovich, who works as outreach and retention coordinator for UNR’s Indigenous Student Services, served as master of ceremonies.

“We celebrate the students, their families, and the tribal communities represented at our graduate celebration and recognize that we are enriched as a university community in being a part of their journey through life,” Mitrovich said during her speech. “We know that with each of our Indigenous students there is a knowledge system very precious and powerful that is shared throughout campus in a variety of ways.

“We hope we have supported each graduate in empowering them to live their story throughout their educational journey at the University of Nevada, Reno, and that they will continue to build upon their successes in their future endeavors.”

Another keynote address from Michon Eben (Paiute/Shoshone), cultural resource manager and tribal historic preservation officer at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, reiterated the story of how the American Indian people came to be, demonstrating that you can weave your culture into your everyday life.

She urged students to remember that in the story, the coyote was able to present himself as something other than who he is and ended up being sly and cunning, like many people the recent graduates may encounter in their professional lives moving forward.

Cassandra Walker is a special assignments reporter for Sierra Nevada Media Group. She can be reached at